Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: GRADUATE (08/01/19)
- TITLE: The Purpose of Pain
By Janet Richey
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Back then, Scranton, Pennsylvania was an odd unification of mostly European immigrants who practiced their Catholic and Jewish faiths in respectful harmony. While most Scrantonians look back at their old ethic neighborhoods with fondness, it was an inhospitable environment for a non-Catholic social outcast like myself. In 1977 my father moved our family from a farming village of fifty people, to this culturally diverse and proud metropolis to nurture a deaf church that he started four years prior. While he was consumed with taking care of his flock, and my mom was working to make ends meet doing piece work at a garment factory, I was struggling to find my place. Cursed with an internal vocabulary that was grade levels above most of my peers, and no social skills to speak of, I came off as condescending, needy, and wholly void of empathy. I had crooked teeth, and a condition that caused my eye to wander indiscriminately, making people uneasy when they talked to me. My affiliation with a Baptist church put me into about a sixteenth of the population. Was there any wonder?
Inexplicably, I graduated on time. At the commencement ceremony I remember surveying the stage and counting on one hand the number of friends I didnâ€™t alienate. Fewer still the number of faculty members that saw beyond my awkwardness and took the time to encourage me. My band teacher was the only one who ever came close. In the years that followed, I made some misguided, confounding, and heart-breaking choices that could have destroyed me, but something else was at work.
Eight years later, God lead me to a patient, quiet man whoâ€™s vocabulary was bigger than my own. Children followed three years later, and I was overcome with sleep deprivation, earth-shattering depression, and unfathomable, life-giving love. There isnâ€™t a â€œWhat To Expectâ€ book that could have prepared me for the dichotomy.
When our girls hit middle school, and subsequently high school, my painful past became a valuable reference book in guiding them through the muddy waters of adolescence, rejection, and big life decisions. Actually, it was an exercise in throwing things at a wall to see what would stick. They didnâ€™t always take my advice, and sometimes it meant helping to pick up the pieces. But standing on the other side of it, I can clearly see where I had a subtle influence.
I recently attended my oldest daughterâ€™s college graduation, and while she certainly earned a place on that stage by her own merit, I took a mental inventory of all the conversations that took place in the family car driving to youth group or band practice, and realized that my own failures had its purpose in shaping her successes.
It is a bit of a stretch to compare myself to the likes of Queen Esther, especially after reading the text of what actually happened to her, but I am instinctively reminded of Esther 4:14(b) ESV â€œ...and who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?â€ Some people are used by God to preach to an untapped community like the deaf, others still may work with inner city youth. But sometimes, God takes our pain and broken pieces, and turns us into parents. The call is no less important.
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